Freedom of expression under threat in the UAE
According to Amnesty International, on 19th June 2017 the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi upheld the conviction and sentencing of poet and journalist Tayseer Salman Al-Najjar. Al-Najjar was arrested on 13th December 2015 for comments he had posted on Facebook that were allegedly “damaging [to] the reputation and prestige of the Emirati state”.
Human rights groups have renewed calls for the release of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor. On 20th June 2017, the Martin Ennals Foundation and other human rights organisations called on the UAE authorities to release Ahmed Mansoor, who has been in detention since his arrest on 20th March 2017. The statement reads that “the UAE authorities have arbitrarily deprived him of liberty and taken him away from his family for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression”. Despite government claims to the contrary, it appears that he has not been able to appoint an independent lawyer and is being detained in Abu Dhabi making it difficult for his family to visit him.
Concerns have also been expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and by human rights organisations over the UAE authorities' response to the conflict with Qatar and the threats against people who criticise the position of the UAE authorities. In a statement released on 14th June 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that he was “extremely troubled to hear that the UAE and Bahrain are threatening to jail and fine people who express sympathy for Qatar or opposition to their own governments’ actions, as this would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion”.